Estee Lauder terminates executive over Instagram post

Group president apologises for 'carelessly reposting' racist meme

Estee Lauder terminates executive over Instagram post

Estee Lauder has terminated veteran executive John Demsey just days after placing him on leave over a social-media post that included a racial slur and a reference to the coronavirus.

Demsey, who will leave the company effective this week, is executive group president and oversees brands such as Clinique and Mac.

The company statement read: “This decision is the result of his recent Instagram posts, which do not reflect the values of the Estee Lauder Companies, have caused widespread offense, are damaging to our efforts to drive inclusivity both inside and outside our walls, and do not reflect the judgment we expect of our leaders,” Executive Chairman William P. Lauder and Chief Executive Officer Fabrizio Freda said in the statement, which the company sent to employees and published on its website.

Demsey had apologized last week for making “the horrible mistake of carelessly reposting a racist meme without reading it beforehand.” His Feb. 21 Instagram post included the slur on a mock children’s-book cover featuring Sesame Street characters.

An Estee Lauder spokeswoman insisted that Demsey wasn’t fired but rather was “told he had to leave the company” and agreed to retire.

HR implications

Trigger happy employees on social media are not a new phenomenon but when it’s a senior executive, the impact on a firm’s reputation and image can be devastating. Either way, it’s a disciplinary issue.

Read more: Manager fired over angry tweet about company’s holiday gifts

HR directors must ensure that a coherent social media policy is in place so employees are not only aware of what they can or can’t post about but, crucially, that they adhere to it. The penalties for not doing so should also be explained.

This is more delicate when it’s senior members of staff but they should be subject to the same training and rules. Social media is a jungle of opinions and posts – help should be on hand for the less tech savvy employees.

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